|Egypt charter vote supports political shift
Egyptian voters overwhelmingly backed a new constitution that paves the way for the army chief to run for president, results show, but the turnout will provide a key measure of his popularity.
Initial tallies reported by state media gave 90 percent support for the new charter, which the military-installed authorities say provides greater protection for freedom of speech and women's rights, AFP reports.
The result of the referendum was always a foregone conclusion considering that the Muslim Brotherhood, designated a “terrorist organization'' by the government, called for a boycott and there was little sign of a “No'' campaign in the run-up to the vote.
Officials have said that army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, will monitor turnout as he mulls running for president.
Egyptian state-run dailies hailed the vote.
“The people say ‘Yes,’’’ said a front-page headline in Al-Akhbar, while Al-Ahram reported that 90 percent of voters had favored the charter.
The government said it was aiming for a larger turnout than the 33 percent of the country's 53 million registered voters who cast a ballot in a constitutional referendum under Morsi in 2012, with 64 percent voting yes.
“We are hoping it exceeds 50 percent,'' spokesman Hany Salah told AFP.
The new text has done away with much of the Islamist-inspired wording of Morsi's charter. It bolsters the military's powers and allows it to try civilians for attacks on the armed forces.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he hoped the referendum would be “transparent and accountable''.
“But we don't know yet,'' he said in Kuwait.
On Tuesday, the State Department said a bill Congress is expected to pass on Friday will allow the White House to release all US$1.5 billion in US aid if it can certify Egypt “has held a constitutional referendum, and is taking steps to support a democratic transition.’’
Interim president Adly Mansour's government has pledged the referendum will be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.